Wednesday, 1 May 2013
It is said that in every town however small, something noteworthy happens at least once. The town of Stillby-on-Frass could be said to be the exception to that rule. Everything seemed to happen there, often all at once.
"It is becoming tiring and frankly tiresome," Miss Sprickett observed at the weekly town council meeting.
"But at least we have a high profile in the region, Marilyn," Mr Cogsworth said a little lamely.
It would take too long to explain the number of natural occurrences that had occurred at Stillby-on-Frass in the last few years alone. Volcanoes, a dragon, a host of locusts and at the local garden festival and thereafter, a swarm of bees among other things. Nobody in the town was in the habit of saying 'It could be worse' because at one time or another, it had been worse. Nobody in the town ever said, 'Worse things happen at sea' because they did not believe that for a minute. If anything, worse things happened at Stillby-on-Frass that ever happened at sea.
The town meeting was a quiet and muted affair for everyone was rather tired of the sixth rainfall of fish. Herrings in particular for some reason. The smell of them had attracted birds and cats. Lots and lots of birds and cats. The people had kept children indoors and burned the herrings despite those that were eaten with considerable greed by the seagulls and the cats. There were not usually many cats in Stillby-on-Frass, but that week the town was full of them.
"Just for once," Miss Sprickett said snappishly, "It would be nice to know that nothing out of the ordinary had happened here."
Nobody argued with that. The council members sat quietly. Mostly tired and utterly sick of the smell of fish. A tabby uncurled itself from the window seat of the council chamber, yawned, stretched and leapt to the floor. The sense of gloom about the chamber did not stop it meowing to be let out. Miss Leaf, a young member of the council got up to let the cat out. As she opened the door Mistress Hardwyck dashed in past the cat.
She was a short, thin, elegant woman dressed in lilac. Her glasses hung by a chain and her eyes were lit up. In her hands she carried a sheaf of papers and it was these that seemed to have excited her as she waved them at the council members.
"I've found actual proof!" she cried, "Actual proof!"
"For heaven's sake Mistress Hardwyck, pull yourself together. Proof of what exactly? A pirate ship in the high street? A tiger in the delicatessen? Five lobsters in Mistress Thompson's gazebo? What?" Mr Latimer exclaimed tugging at his shirt front for want of a waistcoat.
Mistress Hardwyck stopped and took a deep breath. Her eyes still shone with excitement but she came to the council table and placed the documents before Miss Sprickett who was, after all, head of the counci.
"Mr Cogsworth, I believe you have a memory for the history of Stillby-on-Frass. Does 1785 mean anything to you?" Mistress Hardwyck asked.
Mr Cogsworth leaned back in his chair and folded his hands over his belly. For a moment there was silence only broken by the simultaneous exclamations from that worthy gentleman and Miss Sprickett.
"Good grief!" from Miss Sprickett.
"Eureka!" from Mr Cogsworth.
"I know, isn't it marvellous," Mistress Hardwyck said.
"Isn't what marvellous, Mistress?" said Miss Leaf crossly.
"Mr Cogsworth, if you would be so kind," Mistress Hardwyck murmured.
"Um, yes, yes of course. In 1785, after the pirate ship arrived in the High Street and before the arrival of Daniel Defoe on an elephant, nothing happened at all. Especially before the stable yard of the World Turned Upside Down tavern," Mr Cogsworth mused.
"Nothing happened? Nothing at all?" Mr Strident said quietly.
"Nothing happened at that spot just outside the stable yard of a tavern!" Mistress Hardwyck said, unable to hide her delight.
"In Stillby-on-Frass? But wasn't 1785 full of events like every other appalling year?" asked Miss Leaf.
"Oh of course lots of things happened, but there were a few blissful days when absolutely nothing happened. Especially outside of a tavern. No fights, wagers, dramas, nothing," said Mr Cogsworth almost dreamily.
"I move that we put up a sign to mark that non-event," said Miss Sprickett, "As an inspiration to our town. We can be as quiet and uneventful a town as any other. Even if it was over two hundred years ago."
So it was that a sign was made and put up on a fence outside what would have been the stable yard of the World Turned Upside Down tavern. There was some delay in it being installed due to bad weather that ended with precisely a hundred cheeses falling from the sky into a herb garden. Also, the death of a much loathed Prime Minister that occasioned twenty street parties in Stillby-on-Frass. But the sign went up and nobody, to anybody's amazement left the town for a more uneventful home town - like London where little of note ever happens.
Wednesday, 23 January 2013
The curse of all story-makers is that every so often when you know there is a story in an image - you cannot find it in your own head. Writer's block is the same thing. Nothing is to be found in the mind.
Some panic, the first time it happens I'm sure the first reaction is panic. Imagination cannot be forced, it's like a cat, it comes and goes as it pleases. We are not generally brought up with that mind-set. The general notion is that you create and create. Snow, rain, hail, fire, flood and other events don't stop the Imagination Express. This is not entirely true as I've found more than once. The big things can inspire all kinds of thoughts that feed the imagination, but the petty, mundane storms and stresses can get in the way of the imagination.
I have had a whole host of these petty nonsenses and they aren't over yet. Siblings, my own situation have led as always to my asking, why am I here, where am I going, what is the point of living?
So I have retreated into reading and looking at pictures. I have read a collection of short stories and The Marlowe Papers by Ros Barber, a novel in verse. I have been to four exhibitions that were fabulous and enjoyable. Two at the Victoria & Albert museum on costume, one at Tate Britain on the Pre-Raphaelites and recently the Death: A Self Portrait exhibition at the Wellcome Collection. This last was fascinating, moving and even funny.
Slowly I can feel my story-making mojo returning. Like the plants it is hibernating at present, but I hope either very soon or in the Spring to have it back again. The snowy weather we've had in Britain recently has been beautiful and deadly. I have a new book on Albrecht Dürer, which is a beautiful book on an extraordinary artist. I have a new book on Faerie lore by the great folklorist Katharine Briggs. So I am feeding my imagination, letting it simmer and stew until my imagination, sniffing the air returns, well-fed to dream in my head.
Still I am turning over the furniture in my head looking for a story I may have overlooked, wondering if I will continue to be a writer of small tales, fearing that my imagination will leave me or that I will cease to want to write. My world is in the process of being broken down and reborn and all births are painful and stressful.
But in the wilderness of our lives - especially the lives of those of us who are single, we can only struggle and hope. Like wandering through the snow, fearful of falling, yet eager to go on and get into the warmth.
Wherever you are, I hope that you are safe and well. That you are warm and comfortable. Well-fed and loved. And I assure you that I have not gone just yet. I will return with a tale between my ears and hope that it pleases you. It is coming slowly, like a bear waking from its winter sleep to full awareness. I beg you patiently await me, I am on the way back through the snow.
Wednesday, 10 October 2012
This is from a tale, so I cannot truly make my own. I give you the link, which was sent to me by Penny at the Hen House. This is the art of Su Blackwell a woman of infinite imagination and sheer artistic skill.
I am torn because I love the work in all its exquisite-ness...but what a thing to do to a book!!
And yet...if I were an unwanted book, I could only hope Su Blackwell would do such a thing to me.
Readers I offer the link to you so that you may enjoy it. It is quite wonderful to me, I hope you will 'ooh' and 'Cor!' as much as I did.
Thursday, 20 September 2012
It had been many long years since the wise goddess of the storm-grey eyes had competed against a certain weaver. That weaver having won the competition had left the wise goddess somewhat cross. The result of a cross goddess, even the wise Athene had resulted in the weaver being turned into an arachnid, the first of them. Arachne the arachnid had become a creature of corners weaving her delicate webs and reduced to living on insects. No longer the vivid, bright, young woman who had delighted in fabrics and clothes. No longer the young woman who was easily persuaded to go with her friends to the market, or who drank wine and ate honey-cakes. No longer the young woman who talked, laughed, sang as she wove, loved and cursed at the changing landscapes of her life.
Athene had never forgotten that moment of anger and, she admitted to herself, spite. The young woman had been a little presumptuous, but she had won the contest fairly at least. There had been no cheating or daring to criticise the work of the flashing-eyed goddess. Indeed, the young woman had been awestruck at the goddess's work. She had admired its work and been so ashamed at her impiety and presumption that she had hanged herself. At this Athene had taken pity on the young woman, for it is often the way for the young to be presumptuous and not so bad after all. So Athene had insisted that Arachne live and weave her delicate, exquisite webs for eternity.
Still, Athene thought as she sipped her wine and looked out from Mount Olympus on the world of mortals, she had given the woman life again and that was much. Yet something niggled at her. She recalled Freud and his notion of the ego or conscience.
"Another presumptuous mortal," she murmured to herself.
Perhaps, but her conscience had niggled her until she was forced with her own wisdom to recognise her anger had led her astray. Nothing more to do she had told herself, but that was not really enough and she knew it.
That evening she put her dress in her wardrobe and put on pajamas. Wardrobes and pajamas were relatively modern to her, but she liked them. She lay upon her bed and gazed at the stars. The constellations looked down at her reminding her of past days many centuries ago. But in her mind she was thinking still of Arachne. Where was that spider now? Was she long dead?
Athene knew even as she asked herself the question that Arachne was still living. The first spider, but also the once and future spider. The mother of all spiders, still weaving her web with the finest spun threads - perhaps even experimenting with different threads. She had always been a smart young woman, even Athene conceded that much. Her only real offence was her presumption. Athene closed her storm-grey eyes and slept. Her pale aunt Selene, goddess of the Moon rode in her chariot drawn by two white horses across the dark expanse of night singing her dreaming songs.
When rosy-fingered Eos, the dawn goddess caressed bright Helios, he awoke and Selene went to her bed. Athene awoke then and yawned. She stretched her arms and back. Throwing off the duvet (another modern invention she loved), she got up and headed to the bath-chamber to prepare herself for the day. She returned to the bedroom and removed her pajamas. Now in this morning she thought only of the things she would do this day. A young woman who was wondering how to leave a bad boyfriend, a man who was struggling with the business of living and looking fondly on death - and the rest. It's a busy life being the goddess of wisdom, war and craftwork.
Opening her wardrobe she reached into its depths and stopped suddenly. Beside her beautiful long dresses a spare coathanger was visible. Upon it in thicker gossamer was woven an exquisite pattern. Athene gently took the hanger from the wardrobe and held it up to the light. For a moment she was quiet, her mist-grey eyes softened and she wept to think of the young woman who had dared - with such confidence and courage to contend in her craft with a goddess.
She put her hand inside the wardrobe and said softly,
"Come to my hand good Arachne, hard is the lesson you have learned, come to me fair child."
A small spider about the size of a mortal's thumbnail descended from the top of the wardrobe on a fine silken thread to the hand of the goddess and stayed there, still as if dead. Athene put the coathanger back inside the wardrobe and breathed upon the still spider. Slowly she regained her form, standing in Athenes palm. Her hair was long and soft, though grey as mist. Her eyes were dark and her fair skin had wrinkled with age. A tear fell from Athene's mist-grey eye upon the woman's head and her youth came back to her. She fell to her knees, naked and radiant in the goddess' hand covered her face with her hands and wept.
Athene hushed her, gave her a new name and fine dresses and bid her live again in the world of mortals.
"You are not the foolish girl you once were my dear, be wise and think well of me. Death will come to you soon enough. Live and leave to the fire dark misfortunes. Go and weave again Arachne. We competed once, but we shall not compete again. You are a fine weaver and embroiderer, but now you are also a wise woman," Athene told her.
Arachne vanished then from the goddess' palm into our mortal world and lives among us still, unknown and much loved. She does not speak of the past for it is gone and she will be part of it soon enough. She is much loved these days. She goes to the market with her friends, meets them for coffee and cake, loves clothes, shoes, fabrics and books. She laughs, grumps, sings when she weaves, cries occasionally and when she remembers, she is still. Then she smiles to feel the blood in her veins, the warmth of her skin and she shakes her long hair to delight in being alive.
Athene too goes among us, more mellowed than she used to be and more forgiving. She pities us when we are foolish because we are but mortal. She smiles when we love and laugh. She weeps with us when we are frightened, unhappy and alone for she understands us better than once she did. Better than we ever understand ourselves and she does not care if we believe in newer gods or no gods at all. For she is the storm-grey eyed, the flashing eyed goddess, daughter of aegis-bearing Zeus and that she thinks, is enough. It will do.
Tuesday, 4 September 2012
There are not many who remember it. It was a strange building, not quite Greek temple and not quite neo-classical church. It had been built in the 19th century as a chapel, but it was not quite that either. When I moved to the town, the grounds around it and the steps leading up to its grand portico were overgrown with weeds and grass. The few trees had run a little rampant and their roots pushed up the paving around the building. I was not the only one who passed by it on the way to work. At first I used to murmur, 'Poor thing' as I passed, then as the sight of it grew more familiar I began to bow my head as I passed.
But one morning when I passed there was a signboard over it that read 'THE LITTLE SHOP'. It did not seem as if the owners had quite the idea for the sign was worn and the rivets that held the letters to the board were rusted. My curiosity was such that I could not wait for the weekend. My neighbours, a mum with young children on one side and an elderly couple on the other were talking in the street on my return from work and it became clear that they were talking about the shop.
I was the third atheist in my street, the rest were all worshippers of one religion or another. I noticed the small steel crucifixes worn as necklaces on the women as well as their clothes and shoes. The mum still wore stiletto shoes and it raised her height to a little over five foot four. Despite the differences in belief, I was greeted kindly and asked about the shop.
"Very strange it was," the old lady said, "I felt very uneasy in there, even though the food looked lovely."
"My kids were scared to go in," the mum said with a little laugh.
I remembered a poem suddenly,
"“Come buy our orchard fruits,
Come buy, come buy:
Apples and quinces,
Lemons and oranges,
Plump unpeck’d cherries,
Melons and raspberries,
Bloom-down-cheek’d peaches,... "
Goblin Market, that was it. Still, now I longed to go to the Little Shop to see it. I quoted the poem and they laughed.
"The lady in the shop has lovely red hair though," the mum said.
"I knew a red-haired girl at school and she was gorgeous to look at, but this lady's hair was really...luxuriant. That's the only word for it - luxuriant. I wouldn't mind hair like hers, mind you I've got no grey hairs yet despite the kids scaring me every day with what they get up to," she added.
I left them after a little and went in for supper. Pasta and tomatoes with mushrooms and pine nuts again. It wanted a little time yet until pay day.
On Saturday morning however, I was up early and ready to explore. I bought a loaf of bread and a newspaper. I stopped for a coffee and two croissants at The Flying Cup & Saucer and read the TV guide. On my way afterwards, I headed towards the Little Shop. Outside the Shop I saw a tall red-haired woman in a nut-brown dress and leaf-green boots. She was offering a little girl a beautiful red apple. On the face of it I was not looking at anything unusual, but there was something menacing about the woman. She did not instantly appear threatening, but I was suddenly reminded of Snow White's stepmother.
The little girl was about to reach for the apple when her mother came striding up the street and took the girl by the hand.
"Vera! I've told you once if I've told you a thousand times, don't take things from people you don't know," she told the girl.
Vera was about to cry and the face of the red-haired woman had darkened with anger. The mother turned to her and smiled obliviously.
"No offence, but you tell them and they just don't listen. You're clearly a nice woman but you know, there's all kinds of weirdos around these days. I tell Vera all the time. It's very nice of you to offer but she's had her breakfast and you just have to watch them. Come along Vera, we'll be late for your grandma," the mother said and strode off with Vera rushing to catch up.
I strolled towards the Shop slowly and as I did, my foot caught in the pavement. As I tripped and steadied myself, I looked up and the beautiful red-haired woman seemed to be an ancient shadowed woman and the apple seemed to be rotten - almost the shadow of an apple. I was wearing an old steel key about my neck on a ribbon and it banged against my chest as I regained my balance. I took it in my fingers as I straightened up, my heart thumping in me. As I did I saw the old Chapel as it had always been, grubby and overgrown with weeds and grass. Also, it seemed surrounded by strange shadows that seemed to move around the building. Insects scurried over it and spiders spun elegant webs across the entrance and over the woman's nut-brown dress.
As she saw me coming she smiled and offered me the apple. I caught the look in her green eyes, a look of menace as if I were a lamb before a starving tigress. Her smile was somehow wild and dangerous. I smiled nervously.
"Won't you come buy our orchard fruits my love?" she asked in delicate melodious tones.
Won't you step into my parlour? I thought to myself. I held up one hand while clutching my steel key and her eyes flickered as she saw the key and frowned quickly.
"I'd love to but I've only just had breakfast and I don't get paid until the week after next," I answered regretfully.
Suddenly my curiosity had evaporated like the dew on the grass.
"Taste them and try: Currants and gooseberries, Bright-fire-like barberries, Figs to fill your mouth, Citrons from the South, Sweet to tongue and sound to eye; Come buy, come buy," she said, her voice like a song in my head.
A song that wound around me like smoke - like ivy or jasmine, drawing me in somehow and yet I felt uneasy. Queasy and nauseous as if I wanted to throw up from too much food. The coffee seemed acidic in my stomach the croissants ashes in my mouth, dry and horribly burnt somehow. And while that song wound about me, gently, caressing me like a lover, the woman seemed to sway a little as if she were about to faint. I stepped forward and inhaled a green grassy air deeply. She leaned back against the stone pillars leading into the Chapel grounds and put a hand to the pale curve of her neck. Was it my imagination or my nausea that lent her skin a greenish hue?
"Are you alright?" I asked even as I struggled to master my own nausea.
She moaned softly and whispered, "Come buy, come buy."
I was tempted then and she seemed to know it, proffering the apple to me. Her sleeve fell back from her forearm and the same greenish tint to her skin was there. I sought to make sense of it. The light through the trees, I told myself. She is unwell - I am ready to be sick that is why I am seeing this greenish tint to her. In a sudden instant she was the old woman of shadow again for I had grasped my steel key tightly and I knew what she was.
The shop was not there on Monday morning when I walked past in a state of nerves. But I have not forgotten when the faeries had a shop in our town. Unless it was goblins of course.
Friday, 24 August 2012
A long time ago, during the last big war it seems there was a scientist who went to sea to explore the natural life. By which I mean of course, the fish and suchlike. He had a distinctly logical and rational mind that admitted no 'fanciful' notions. He had never believed in the Faeries as a child, so his grandmother had had to send him to the city to stay with his mother. This also meant sending his mother to the city but at least they were safe. His father was away fighting in the war - as men do. At least it was necessary to fight this time for one cannot allow nitwits to take over the world, especially when they are cruel nitwits.
The little boy had grown up with an intention to be utterly rational and logical for reasons I cannot possibly fathom. As such he had taken a liking to science and a dislike to art (beauty is irrational - fortunately) and love for that too was utterly illogical. He gathered a very logical interest in sea creatures that had nothing to do with his emotions - or so he said.
At any rate, he had, as I say gone to sea during the war, which may in itself show his sense of logic was slipping. The ship's crew left him alone mostly. They had enough to keep the ship going and avoiding the enemy who were likely to be extremely unsociable.
Now it should be said that seafaring men and women have a long tradition of lore, much of it strange and wonderful. So it was not too long before the scientist was upsetting the crew with his clear lack of knowledge of any sea-lore. He even went so far as to state quite unequivocally that mermaids were a form of wishful thinking.
The first mate, a woman of formidable nature and great strength bet him a hundred pounds that he was wrong and being a rational man he took the bet.
"It takes a man who is convinced of his intelligence to be a true fool," the first mate remarked.
The scientist maintained a dignified silence before running on deck to throw up over the side. For as a city man the pitch and roll of the ship had left him with a delicate constitution. As he straightened up he looked into the eyes of a mermaid. Her hair was dark green like fine seaweed, her eyes blue-green as the sea and her skin was pale with a silvery tint to it. She looked boldly into his eyes and laughed before flicking her tail and plunging beneath the waves.
Now it takes a rational and logical man to consider phenomenom and our scientist put this vision down to his unsteady constitution. Mermaids, he reminded himself do not exist though he could not understand why he should be wishfully thinking of one. After all, he disliked love for its irrational nature. At that point his stomach overcame his reason and he was violently sick again. Once more he groaned and cleaned himself up before staggering down to his cabin.
During that evening, the sea seemed to lose its temper. It whistled and raged and clawed at the sky. In its turn the sky also grew angry and growled thunderously, darkened its brows and hurled rain and hail at the sea. Caught between the two the ship was hurled upwards and prow first down into the wild lacy foam of the seaspray. The scientist who had during the afternoon brought his scientific equipment on deck (so as to be nearer the rail) was caught by surprise for the day had been fine with just enough breeze to be comfortable. His microscope among his other equipment and he too were flung up and over the side of the ship.
He felt the icy cold of the sea wrap around him and leave him breathless so that he could not even shout to the crew. His clothes became drenched with water until they were leaden on him. He sank, struggling to rise up to the stormy surface of the sea, his clothes choking off any movement.
He felt gently fingers about him then and heard soft singing that wove about him. When he turned his head he looked into the eyes of that mermaid with the blue-green eyes. Suddenly without warning, he found himself deeply in love. All his reason and logic could not save him for it was quite overwhelmed by the mermaid's wild beauty.
What happened to him is unknown, only that the crew never found him. Only his microscope was retrieved from the ocean and sent to a museum as a memory of the scientist. Those who loved him could only mourn him.
But the sailors do not mourn him, for they know that on certain days evenings when the sun is not quite gone from the sky a mermaid and her lover can be seen on dark lonely rocks fixed in each other's gaze, deep in love, an utterly irrational emotion.
Thursday, 12 July 2012
There is a pub in our town called The Dancing Dog. It's owned by a tall silent woman, nobody knows her name. The bartender is a cheerful man called Riley. There was talk that the two of them were an item, but when Riley got married to a blonde from a nearby town that died down.
Liz was telling me how the pub got its name. It seems that when the building was first built The Woman as she is known bought it and moved in upstairs. She had a dog of indeterminate breed that was often called Hound by her as in 'Hound sit' or 'Hound here'. The dog was a medium animal. Not a big dog like Anson's bulldog or a small dog like the preacher's wife's peke. Hound was a white dog with a tufted coarse coat and a black patch over one eye that gave him a jovial piratical air. Mostly he was a law unto himself, but it was clear that he loved The Woman.
So The Woman bought the building and Hound would sit outside watching the people go by. The Woman had got a lot of money it was said and didn't know what to do with it. At first she lived quietly visiting the library most days to borrow books and read in the park with Hound at her side, his head in her lap.
She had a strange and varied taste in books as if she were interested in all kinds of things. She hardly ever read novels, mostly biographies or factual stuff. She drank her coffee black as her dark hair with one spoon of brown sugar in it. She rarely smiled and when the few men tried to talk to her she dismissed them as one dismisses a minor nuisance like a mosquito.
Kids around town thought she was a witch though I don't quite know why. She always wore red and green. if she wore a red dress she would wear green shoes. Sometimes, though rarely she wore black, but then she would wear a splash of red and a burst of green with it. A couple of old women thought she might have faery blood in her, but I don't know.
One evening she was seen sitting on the porch of her new home. She was reading a book as usual with Hound sitting by her watching the street with a smile on his face. I should say that Hound was a friendly dog, as friendly as his mistress was cool and distant. Most people loved him except the preacher's wife and a few cats who would eye him suspiciously, though he never chased a cat unlike Wilton's mean old cur. So anyway The Woman was sitting reading with a drink of something on a table by her chair. It was a fine summer evening when the sky is stretching and thinking of bed and the sun is going through her wardrobe looking for a red party dress to wear.
A tall man rode through town on a rather fine horse with elegant slim legs and a long thick mane of hair. Oh, the horse had fine slim legs and a thick mane too, some knowlegeable people said the horse was Arabian, but Liz said she just thought it was a fine horse and that was enough. The man stopped the horse in front of The Woman and said clearly,
"A fine dog my dear and a finer mistress."
Liz made a face and took another sip of her martini.
"So The Woman barely looks up from her book and says,
"Yes he is a fine hound and I am far too fine for the likes of you sir."
Then she goes right on with her book and Hound looks up at the man and turns, yawns and lies down at The Woman's feet."
Then the man frowned and shook his head.
"You weren't so cold in Ashdown Woods as I recall," he said.
"It was a long time ago and I was a different woman and now I've grown up. Tempest is looking well I see. The way out of town is the way Tempest is facing. Follow the road and go back into the woods where you belong," says she rather coolly.
Now as Liz pointed out, you don't name a horse unless you know the rider, so those few folk who heard that felt their ears twitching to know more. But the man shook his thick mane of dark hair and looked at Hound.
"If you'll not dance, your dog will I've no doubt," he said.
Then he whispered a word to his horse and rode on out of town to who knows where. The Woman frowned at that and took Hound indoors with her. That was that for the night. The Sun put on her red dress and went out partying. The night went to his bed along with the rest of us and we dreamed dreams.
The following morning as The Woman was taking her walk into the park with Hound following there came a group of musicians to practise. That was not exceptional, they often came to practice and some folk would come and sit on the grass and listen. But this time when they started to play their audience was distracted by a sharp cry. They turned and Hound was up on his hind paws dancing to the music. The group played and Hound danced and The Woman became more distraught. She put away her book and swept up Hound in her arms, the dog still dancing.
"No doubt the strange man had cursed poor Hound," Liz said shaking her head.
It happened that from that moment on when music was heard near him, Hound would up on on his hind paws and dance away, his ears flapping, his front paws flopped over. People would think it sweet, but The Woman would be furious and demand that the music stop. She would sweep Hound up in her arms and dash away home, tears flooding down her face.
The news went all around town until one day an old woman went up the street to where The Woman lived and knocked on her door. That in itself was thought to be brave. The Woman mostly kept to herself, but the door opened and the old lady spoke to The Woman and was invited in. A little later the old woman came out of the house and went back home. Soon after, The Woman came out of the house followed by Hound. She walked up the street to the bookshop with her firm decisive stride and Hound trotted after her. Around his neck, for the first time ever, was a fine collar of black leather with shiny steel studs.
The Crillon boys, wicked with mischief ran after her playing a flute and singing, just to make Hound dance. The Woman turned briefly with a face like thunder, but Hound just stopped and looked up at her inquiringly. Not a jig was in him and the Crillon boys ran off before The Woman should deliver her wrath upon their ears.
A little after that, The Woman had workmen in to create her building into a pub. She hired Riley and a young talented woman called Sylvie as chef. The first night was advertised in the paper and people could not help but smile. She had called the new pub, 'The Dancing Dog'. Everyone came that first night mostly out of curiosity. What they found was a handsome large room with tables and a stage at one end. Customers were seated and Hound was at the door to greet them all. The Woman was nowhere to be seen. She left Riley and Sylvie to do their stuff and to greet customers. Halfway through the evening a band came up on the stage and played music quietly but with panache. Hound turned, looked at them and yawned before trotting off to the door to the kitchen to see if he might get scraps. He was used to his collar by then.
"Now," said Liz, "All I'll say is this. Steel has iron in it and that stranger who put the dancing curse on Hound was neither a wizard or a witch. There have been faerie folk in our woods for centuries, my grandma says and she should know. A faerie woman tried to call her away when she was little, but her mam had put a shiny steel cross about grandma's neck and the enchantment protected her. That's all I'm saying."
I smiled at her, shook my head and went to the bar to get more drinks.